Keep Your Fax Number

As lawyers migrate toward the cloud and mobile offices they are ditching relics of the past.

Landlines and paper files are fading like Marty’s relatives in Back to the Future. Fax machines are quickly going the way of the dodo bird.

Just because you are tech-savvy, however, does not mean the rest of the world is. Having a fax number is relatively inexpensive and still has utility.

Clients still use faxes

You might have a paperless office, complete with a ScanSnap to keep things running smooth. But there’s a pretty low chance that your clients have a similar setup. If clients or potential clients need to send you a document quickly, fax is usually the best option. Mailing something can take a day or two, and having clients drop off documents can be inconvenient for clients.

Faxes can be especially useful if you are working for a client that has transportation issues or lives in a remote location. Sure, mail is always an option, if you want to wait a few days. If you are involved in litigation, a few days can be an eternity. For example, if you need a client’s signature on a retainer, settlement agreement, or affidavit. If there are concerns about the security of a fax transmission, you can always have a client just send the signature page, which usually only has a signature block.

Service by fax is still accepted in many jurisdictions

This is slowly (and thankfully) changing, but in many jurisdictions you can serve documents via fax, but not by e-mail. Service by e-mail is only considered effective if the other side has consented in writing (or something similar—depending on your local rules).

So if you need to get something served ASAP and opposing counsel has not consented to service via e-mail, fax is not the next best option. Driving to the airport post office is fun and novel the first time you do it; after that it’s a pain in the butt.

You may only need to serve via fax once or twice a year, but it could a lifesaver (or a huge convenience) on those rare occasions. Considering you can have an e-Fax number and account for less than $60 a year, it’s worth it.

Companies respond to requests/inquiries via fax

There is a common theme here: just because your office is cutting edge, that does not mean anyone else is. Vendors, companies, and even opposing counsel will sometimes respond to requests/subpoenas/inquiries via fax, but not via e-mail.

In the world of litigation, that could mean getting a response/documents days before it arrives in the mail. That can make a big difference in a case. Yes, the rules allow for extra time for service via mail, but litigation and litigators usually puts an emphasis on wanting things quickly.

I recently served a subpoena on a third-party that had little interest in responding in a timely manner. When I was finally able to track them down, they immediately produced responsive documents via fax. They also mailed them, but they showed up five days later. That’s a big difference. Depending on your case, that can make a big difference.

An e-fax number is ridiculously cheap

If you have any business savvy, you know that keeping overhead low is key to running a successful law practice. There’s a difference between being smart and being cheap.

I pay less than $60 per year for my fax number. I don’t have a fax machine—all received faxes are PDFs that land in my inbox. Sending a fax can be done via e-mail or a web-based interface.

I probably send less than ten faxes a year and receive two-three a month. As explained above, it’s usually something important and something time-dependent.

In all likelihood, you can survive without a fax number. But there are a couple of times a month when it comes in handy. For $60 a year, it’s a no-brainer.



  1. I’ll add another note which is that, you can also keep your fax machine. Why? For that odd occasion when you need to fax something right now and can’t wait for scanning. Or, if you need to fax something odd sized, or if opposing counsel wants to send a fax from your office during a deposition and isn’t interested in leaving you with a scanned copy of the document, or… lots of reasons.

    If you can spare the space and it isn’t otherwise inconvenient, just leave it plugged in to any phone line, even your main line, but not answering incoming calls.

    But, Bryan, I don’t want to start getting faxes sent back to my incoming phone number!

    Of course not! Fortunately, fax machines generally do not rely on or use caller id information, but instead use the self-reported fax number you program into your fax machine. So, tell your fax machine it is your internet fax number, and send from any phone line, and the receiving fax will show that the fax came from your internet fax number.

    • Sam Glover Sam G. says:

      How does dialing a phone number and running a sheet of paper through your fax machine take less time than running that same sheet of paper through your scanner and typing an email address?

      Edit: That goes triple for longer documents. My scanner is much faster than any fax machine I have seen.

      • Avatar Randall R. says:

        If opposing counsel needs to fax something from my office, opposing counsel can go to Kinkos. Unless I like them. Then I would just scan and fax it.

        As Sam noted, my scanner is also much faster than any fax machine I have seen.

  2. Avatar Jeff says:

    Where do you get an e-fax for only $60 per year?

  3. Avatar Ronnie says:

    We have both an electronic fax and a landline one. We ALMOST never use the landline, but let Cox do an upgrade to the system and we’re down for a few hours. The landline fax becomes a lifesaver. On occasion when I’m sending a larger document I’ll use the landline. Sometimes the other fax can hang up and it takes forever to process the document; with a landline I can stop transmission, whereas with the electronic fax I can’t. The $10/month I pay for it is negligible, especially since the efax is rolled into our VOIP phone service.

  4. Avatar Brian Amsbary says:

    Randall — who is your e-fax vendor?

  5. I haven’t had a physical fax machine in over 3 years and I’ve never missed it. In fact, I can’t imagine having to o back to making sure the darn thing had paper. I use Ring Central and I am alerted to new voice and fax by email and text. Love it.
    But I agree-as anachronistic as a fax machine may be becoming, the fax number is still important.

Leave a Reply